BURNING THE MIDNIGHT OIL
By Doug Stokes
Thank you very much for sending us on this one for LA
We had a great time driving the brand-new (and brilliant) 2009 Volkswagen Jetta
TDI through the wilds and woodlands of Malibu.
The car is even better than ballyhooed by VW! Clean, quick, roomy, brisk,
bracing, taut, and torquey – my only complaint is that it was almost impossible
to think of it as diesel-powered at all when driving. Of course, the slightest
application of the loud pedal was enough to invoke tons of grunt (in any gear,
at any speed), and a willingness to make tracks that tells your butt that there
is something different, something very husky and somehow very different, quietly
working its magic up there under the hood.
Just for the record there is NO diesel: smoke, smell, rattle, vibration, sound,
stubbornness, pre-heating, or anything else associated with diesels of old. But
for the TDI designation on this one’s derriere, none knows that it wants to
drink cetane and not octane.
The nice Volkswagen people (they spelled my name “Strokes” on my ID tag and I
wore it proudly all day to the consternation of the VW press corps, but to the
delight of many old friends like the incomparable Denise McCluggage) put 80
journos in 40 Jetta TDIs, gave them full tanks of ultra low-sulfur Shell diesel
2, handed them the car keys, a route book, bid each team: “Have a good time!” on
Ocean Boulevard in Santa Monica, and then stood back, and waited for our
I really don’t know how many of us free-loading fifth-estaters came back to the
Lowe’s and tried to order one of these wonder-wagons, but I’ve sure got to have
one and I heard the same from many of my colleagues. The car is that good, that
journalists were thinking “buy”.
In fact the car is so good, that certain short-sighted (S.O.B.) dealers are
taking orders and putting a 2-3,000 dollar (over list) premium on the Jetta TDI.
Some of those bastards will get the extra geetus, and some owners will justify
paying the bucks by saying that they want one real bad, and that the fuel
mileage and the $1,300 federal tax credit will offset the reaming that they’re
taking. But remember the NSX, the Miata, the early Hondas, iPods, iPhones, and
whatever … Those shyster dealers stuck customers with paying extra for the
privilege. None of it lasted long and no one, no one ever boasted about paying
over list that I can remember.
But, enough of the diatribe, back to the cool car.
It is hard to explain just what a shot-in-the-arm this little 50-state legal
machine is to the environmentally-aware side of the ledger. Yeah, hybrids are
cool, but this car is the real thing, one engine (tough enough to run forever),
readily-available fuel, great handling, superb brakes, a six-speed automatic
that is never wrong, real German car seats (you know: firm but supportive with
“low-fatigue long-trip” written all over them), and range that can be measured
in meal stops, not snack breaks.
All the tech-stuff and numbers are attached.
I’m sure that they are both respectable and realistic. I, for one haven’t even
looked at any of them. The one thing that I did look at in 80+ miles of
“spirited” driving (Hell, my driving partner was Ricardo Rodriguez … Honest
… only this Ricardo is originally from Argentina, is a bi-lingual motoring
journalist, and lives in Fullerton). We both would have bet big money that the
fuel gage needle had been painted on by the Volkswagen press people … It never
moved away (or if it did, one would have needed a micrometer to tell) from the
1/1 (that’s “Full” in Euro-markings) mark.
Remarkable machine. I’m thinking that all 80 of us had similar reactions to the
first 50-state legal diesel powered car sold in the States. If you need, want,
covet, long for, or just think it would be cool to do, go drive this car.
Restrain yourself from offering to pay any “tribute” above the sticker, and if
you are so confronted, just trudge over to another VW dealer with a soulful look
in your eye saying, “You’re not like that bastard, So-and-So Motors over in
Screwtown, are you sir (or madam)?
This is just the beginning, but what an auspicious one for commuters and thrill
seekers. This is the most fun you can have being frugal (with your gym shorts
on). I had a ball, and was almost reluctant to turn this $20,000 dollar car in,
and get back behind the wheel of the $54,000 dollar review car that I have on
Thanks again. I’m going to break off now and audit my piggy bank and the couch
cushions for a down-payment on the future.
For more information about Volkswagen products, go to
Name of vehicle:
2009 U.S. Jetta TDI Sedan
EPA-rated miles per gallon (city/highway): 29/40
Federal 50 state approved LEV II LEV/T2 BIN 5 : EVAP N.A. CR Diesel
AMCI real world estimated miles per gallon (city/highway): 38/44
2.0-liter four-cylinder, in-line, turbocharged direct injection, Common Rail TDI
Power: 140 horsepower
Torque: 236 pound-feet
6-speed manual; optional 6-speed DSG automatic transmission with Tiptronic® and
Electro-mechanical variable assist power rack-and-pinion steering
Front – Independent McPherson struts with stabilizer bar
Rear – fully independent four-link suspension with coil springs, telescopic
Traction Control ASR – Anti-Slip Regulation
EDL – Electronic Differential Lock
EBA – Engine Braking Assist prevents compression-induced skidding in slippery
ESP – Electronic Stabilization Program
Tires 205/55 R16 H, all season tires
Wheels 6.5J X 16” alloy wheels
ABS (Anti-lock Braking System) power assisted front vented disc brakes with rear
solid disc brakes, EBD (Electronic Brake-pressure Distribution) and HBA
(Hydraulic Brake Assistant)
Overall length: 179.3 inches
Overall width: 70.1 inches
Overall height: 57.4 inches
Curb weight (lbs.): 3230